Self-awareness and transgression in children: two field studies

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1979 Oct;37(10):1835-46. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.37.10.1835.


Two field studies explored the relationship between self-awareness and transgressive behavior. In the first study, 363 Halloween trick-or-treaters were instructed to only take one candy. Self-awareness induced by the presence of a mirror placed behind the candy bowl decreased transgression rates for children who had been individuated by asking them their name and address, but did not affect the behavior of children left anonymous. Self-awareness influenced older but not younger children. Naturally occurring standards instituted by the behavior of the first child to approach the candy bowl in each group were shown to interact with the experimenter's verbally stated standard. The behavior of 349 subjects in the second study replicated the findings in the first study. Additionally, when no standard was stated by the experimenter, children took more candy when not self-aware than when self-aware.

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Environment